Marcel Dyf, French (1899-1985)

Artist's Biography

Marcel Dyf’s family lived in Paris, but he spent his childhood holidays in Normandy at Ault, Deauville, and Trouville. The artistic climate to which he was exposed in Paris and in Normandy was crucial during his youth, as innovative ideas and new thinking, born of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist movements, formed ever widening circles of influence in Europe. Swept up in the atmosphere, Dyf decided in his early twenties to give up his career in engineering and become an artist.  

He moved to Arles in 1922 to pursue his calling and he kept a studio there until 1942. He had little formal artistic training but owed much of his inspiration to the great masters of the past such as Rembrandt, whom he particularly admired, Vermeer and Tiepolo. In Provence, challenged by a new range of colours and light, by new landscapes and images and under the same intense sky that lent its brilliance to Van Gogh’s art, Dyf graduated from painter to artist. Whilst in Arles Dyf was commissioned to paint a number of large historical and decorative works, mostly frescoes, in the town halls of Saint Martin-de-Crau and Les Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer, in Arles, in the Museon Arlaten and in the dining hall of the Collège Ampère. He also designed windows for the church of Saint Louis in Marseille.

In 1935 Dyf took on Maximilien Luce’s old studio in the Avenue du Maine on the left bank. His partial return to Paris meant that he could work with many whose names became renowned for their highly original contributions to art, music, and literature. Paris hummed with creative vitality in the 1930s and Dyf was both participant and recipient in the atmosphere. Paris was shattered by the invasion of 1940.

Like many others, Dyf left the city and returned to Arles, but he quickly had to abandon his home in the south and he took to the Maquis, entering the Résistance in Corrèze and the Dordogne. After the Liberation he returned to Arles to find the studio reduced to rubble in the fighting. He retreated, heavy-hearted, to Paris but the pull of the Midi was deep-rooted, so in time he returned and made a new base in Saint Paul-de-Vence.